VW & Siemens Team Up For Long-Haul Electric Trucks

JUN 14 2018 BY MARK KANE 9

Siemens, together with Volkswagen’s subsidiary Scania got the green light for a research project with heavy goods vehicles using overhead power lines on public roads in Germany.

Scania G 360 4×2 with pantograph, electrically powered truck at the Siemens eHighway. Gross Dölln, Germany

The idea is to enable zero-emissions, long-haul travel by using an overhead catenary system instead of huge battery packs.

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Siemens launched a pilot system in Sweden and recently  in California, but the road for a viable commercial product is long and time is ticking away, as battery energy density/costs progress. In the case of this latest project in Germany, it will be subsidized.

Tests will begin in early 2019 with two Scania hybrid trucks:

  • first on public roads on sections of the A5 motorway to the south of Frankfurt
  • second on sections of the A1 motorway near Lübeck and on the B442 federal highway near Gaggenau

According to the press release, bigger scale field trials are currently planned.

“The two project partners involved – Siemens and Volkswagen Group Research – are sharing the tasks: Siemens is responsible for developing the pantograph while Volkswagen is providing the required hybrid trucks via the Group’s Swedish subsidiary Scania and is carrying out the accompanying research. Trial operations will be conducted jointly as from early 2019.

During the course of this research project, one objective will be to determine how goods traffic can be organised in a more climate-friendly manner, particularly over long distances. This is because in Germany alone heavy goods traffic results in CO2 emissions of 56 million tonnes per year. The extent to which electrification of routes for HGVs can bring about a reduction is to be determined within the scope of this project.

Both Siemens and Scania are already conducting trials on the supply of electrical energy for goods traffic. Now this technology will be gradually coming onto German public roads as part of a research project scheduled to run for three years.

It will involve two Scania trucks with varying degrees of electrification in the hybrid drivetrain taking part in test drives on three different trial routes in Germany. From the beginning of 2019, the first vehicle will be travelling periodically in traffic on public roads on sections of the A5 motorway to the south of Frankfurt, then later also on sections of the A1 motorway near Lübeck and on the B442 federal highway near Gaggenau, as soon as the overhead power line infrastructure there is complete. This research project represents the preliminary stage for a real field trial planned on a larger scale.”

Dr Axel Heinrich, Head of Group Research at Volkswagen AG commented as follows:

“We are expecting the project to produce some useful findings on the potential for saving CO2 emissions through electrification and on the required energy demand of the trucks. These findings will then form input for the development of future generations of electric drives and the associated energy management.”

Roland Edel, Chief Technology Officer of the Mobility Division at Siemens said:

“The eHighway system is an economical and sustainable option for decarbonizing road transport. The field trials in Germany are an important step on the way toward realizing these systems. Along with the electrical drive components, the smart pantograph is the key part of the system: It connects the truck to the infrastructure along the highway. An efficiency of more than 80 percent is made possible by the efficient conductive energy transmission to the truck.”

Claes Erixon, Executive Vice President Research and Development, at Scania said:

“For long-haulage transportation, Scania sees electric highways as one promising technology for a sustainable transport future. Vehicle electrification is developing quickly and with its environmental, social and cost benefits, it will play an important role in the shift to a fossil-free transport system”.

Categories: Charging, Trucks, Volkswagen

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9 Comments on "VW & Siemens Team Up For Long-Haul Electric Trucks"

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I guess the “antennae” to the overhead wires that run our trolley fleet must not work at highway speed, they don’t look nearly as complicated, it seems their main drawback here is pruning the street trees out of the wires, the new trolleys have batteries to power them around detours or in the maintenance yard.
Whatever form it takes, overhead wires, induction in the roadway, or the “slot” system we’ve read about here, I’m all for it.
From four years of driving electric, I know that even just an assist up long grades would be like doubling the battery size over a long haul, roadside solar could reduce line loss and installation costs.
I want to know more.

These are more like the pantographs on a high speed rail which have a carbon pad that makes contact. Trolley buses have a pole that essentially hangs off the wire. The trolley poles end up being more complicated and aren’t as reliable. The pads on these trucks can essentially re-establish contact at highway speeds without any human intervention.

Battery prices are dropping and at a certain point I think it’ll not be cost effective to put these in on long distance routes. I’ve seen these overhead wires for electric buses in some older cities and they are an eyesore. This may actually be a good option for charging.

Electric power by pantograph + low rolling resistance wheels + platooning + autopilot… Everything that makes trucks more efficient makes them look more like trains.

Maybe just use trains?

Trains don’t service many neighborhood stores or other local businesses.

It has been used for decades in Lyon (France) and other cities I guess.
Very convenient. I do not know the cost and maintenance needed.

I prefer Honda’s system, which puts wires beside the road in a guardrail so cars can use the same wires.

Put one mile of wire for every 10-20 miles of road and you cut costs 90% on the wires and 80% on the truck battery. The truck would cost less than diesel, carry more payload and have much lower operating cost. Huge wins all the way around.

The same approach would work here. You don’t need overhead for the entire route. The typical train power car draws about 5MW of power from overhead lines. Just a mile of track could deliver quite a potent charge for a truck needing far less power.

Until someone steals the wire and recycles it.